Crikey got a lovely plug in Margo Kingston’s new book Not Happy John but this hasn’t stopped us crossing swords with the SMH web diarist or covering her quixotic tilt at the Press Gallery committee as you can see from these recent sealed sections to subscribers.

What Margo Kingston wrote about Crikey

June 28 sealed section

SMH webdiarist Margo Kingston has now probably notched up the most number of plugs for Crikey – excluding the regular ABC radio spots which are a different issue altogether – with her new book Not Happy John!

We’re still waiting for our review copy but someone faxed through a couple of pages where Margo actually urges people to subscribe as follows on page 402:

“Consider how crucial an element of political reportage Stephen Mayne’s crikey.com.au website has become to recognise the online potential. Some older hacks accuse Mayne of journalistic anarchy, yet if there’s one thing that defines his site it’s transparency.

“Crikey.com.au is recklessly courageous and always upfront about the basis of its posts; errors are always (Margo’s emphasis)corrected and – mainstream journalists take note – mistakes admitted, retracted and apologised for. Perhaps paradoxically, each admitted stuff-up nurtures a readership that is not less but more confident that the Crikey team has no hidden agenda except to be as honest as they can.

“Let’s subscribe now! Eighty bucks a year will help Crikey keep the media, politicians and business honest and people informed. It gives people a chance to say what they think of the job our leaders are doing in a no-holds-barred forum that most Canberra insiders read religiously.”

CRIKEY: She must be on drugs! And it is certainly different to whatever Pies Akerman takes. We’ve never encountered such boosterism from a mainstream journalist before. Three cheers to Margo. However, it should be pointed out that Crikey’s political coverage has been driven by Hillary Bray for the past four and a half years and Hillary might just be coming out in the coming weeks so she can finally receive the plaudits she deserves. On the accuracy question, the editor has a different take and believes the regular corrections and clarifications can damage the brand and cement the view that we are unreliable when in fact we are generally more accurate than people give us credit for. However, since adopting the corrections policy our legal woes have completely disappeared and it has now been almost three years since the last writ landed and 400 days since we settled with Nick Bolkus.

Margo crashes and burns in Canberra

June 29 sealed section

Helter-skelter SMH Web diarist Margo Kingston has been a busy girl. Between launching her book Not Happy John! Defending our Democracy, keeping her web diary buzzing with dissent, and successfully avoiding Fred Hilmer’s redundancy ‘enforcers’, she managed a quixotic tilt at the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery committee.

And as usual with Margo, it wasn’t without controversy. The Oz reported on her challenge last Thursday, noting that anonymous press gallery types had circulated “Not happy Margo” sh*t sheets in an attempt to blunt her campaign. Appropriating the kind of language that provokes Margo best, the-anti Kingston paraphernalia declared: “We decide who comes here and the circumstances in which they come”.

Tough stuff, given Margo wasn’t even running for an executive post. Those positions had already been filled – The Daily Tele’s Malcolm Farr stood down after five years, to be replaced by The West Australian’s Karen Middleton. Ten’s parliamentary preacher, Paul Bongiorno, remained vice-president, AAP’s James Grubel stayed as secretary, and Ten’s Tim Sweeney kept treasury.

But the fight for spots on the committee was a dirty one, with five candidates for the four slots. ABC radio’s Stephanie Kennedy, Phil Hudson of The Sunday Age, the Daily Tele’s strapping Luke McIlveen and Gemma Daley of Bloomberg News – and Kingston.

Some gallery types were upset about Sydney-based Margo’s nomination, branding her an outsider. Kingston rarely works from Parliament House – even though she has a gallery pass and was perfectly within her rights to stand.

The sh*t sheet circulating in the gallery last week bore a quote from Not Happy John: “I’m now an outsider to the goings on at the physical and symbolic heart of our democracy – Parliament House, Canberra. I left the place I loved and despised in equal parts more than three years ago, after 12 years of breathing its air, thinking about its thoughts, chatting to its players, questioning its decisions, investigating its secrets. Hating it. Loving it.”

And the anonymous brochure declares: “Defend your democracy – don’t vote an outsider on to the Press Gallery Committee.”

Now the results are in – and Margo has missed out. According to gallery types, the anti-Margo propaganda probably boosted her vote, although the results weren’t particularly close. Margo scored 34 votes. Others got more than 100.

Now Margo will have more time to promote her book. Blogger Ari Sharp reports that last Thursday’s book signing at hippy hangout Readings, was characterised by earnest “Israel bashing.”

Sharp reported that “Penguin, the publishers, initially wanted to present Kingston as the ‘Michael Moore of Australia’ and build a profile for her in that way. Kingston rejected the offer, arguing that she ‘didn’t have a sense of humour’.”

Check out his report here: http://ariontheweb.blogspot.com/

Margo confronts alleged sh*t sheet author

July 1 sealed section

Crikey has heard that in the aftermath of the sh*t sheet affair, Margo Kingston turned up in the Gallery yesterday to confront Luke McIlveen, the person she blames for the smear campaign and her ultimate defeat.

Crikey initially heard reports that there were threats of legal action and accusations of defamation and the whole exchange was overheard by everyone in News Ltd. However, this was subsequently clarified as Margo insists it was all very calm.

We rang Luke today to congratulate him on his win and ask him about his run-in with Margo, but he said it was a civil meeting, with no threats or accusations, claiming all Margo wanted was a copy of the flyer for her files.

He did however deny having written, or knowing who had written, the flyer simple stating: “It’s not my style”.

Is this the man behind the Margo sh*t sheet?

July 2 sealed section

Here is an interesting exercise. Go to Google and do an image search for “Margo Kingston and Pauline Hanson”. The gentleman featured on the left is said to have had something to do with the attack on Margo and strong support for the Luke McIlveen tilt at the press gallery committee.

McIlveen himself told Crikey that the sh*t sheet was “not my style”, when gallery types reckons he loves this sort of stuff. So if Luke wasn’t behind it, was it the man of mystery on the left of the screen?

Incidentally, we’re also told that the so-called shouting match between McIvween and Kingston wasn’t as dramatic as first suggested and there is certainly no suggestion that she would sue.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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